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In re Emmons

Supreme Court of Indiana

February 14, 2017

In the Matter of: Gene D. Emmons, Respondent.

         Attorney Discipline Action

          Attorney for the Respondent Michele S. Bryant Evansville, Indiana

          Attorneys for the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission G. Michael Witte, Executive Director David E. Griffith, Staff Attorney Indianapolis, Indiana

          PER CURIAM.

         We find that Respondent, Gene D. Emmons, engaged in attorney misconduct by converting guardianship funds, failing to comply with court orders, and failing to cooperate with the disciplinary process. For this misconduct, we conclude that Respondent should be suspended from the practice of law in this state for at least three years without automatic reinstatement.

         Pursuant to Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 23(11) (2016), the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission and Respondent have submitted for approval a "Statement of Charges and Conditional Agreement for Discipline" stipulating agreed facts and proposed discipline. The Respondent's 2008 admission to this state's bar subjects him to this Court's disciplinary jurisdiction. See Ind. Const. art. 7, § 4. The Court approves the agreement and proposed discipline.

         Stipulated Facts

         Respondent was appointed by the Warrick Circuit Court as guardian of an 88-year-old incapacitated woman ("Ward") living in a nursing home. In his capacity as guardian, Respondent became a signatory on Ward's "PTSB" and "PNC" bank accounts. Ward's account at PTSB was an attorney fiduciary account subject to overdraft reporting to the Commission.

         Without the required court authorization, Respondent wrote three checks from the PTSB account, totaling $20, 000 and payable to himself, indicating in the subject lines that the checks were for legal fees. In early 2015, the court ordered Respondent to prepare a biennial accounting of the guardianship. Respondent failed to do so, and in March 2015 the court ordered Respondent removed as guardian. After appointing another attorney as guardian, the court ordered Respondent as the previous guardian to file a final accounting, which Respondent also failed to do.

         The court later ordered Respondent to appear and explain his failure to comply with the court-ordered accounting. Respondent failed to appear on the scheduled hearing date.

         Meanwhile, the Commission began investigating Respondent's actions and demanded a response. Respondent failed to respond, leading to the initiation of show cause proceedings in this Court and, eventually, an indefinite suspension for noncooperation that remains in effect. Matter of Emmons, 52 N.E.3d 797 (Ind. 2016). Respondent also failed to timely comply with a subpoena duces tecum seeking production of his guardianship file, and when he did comply, the file he produced was incomplete.

         The parties agree that Respondent violated these Indiana Professional Conduct Rules prohibiting the following misconduct:

1.15(a): Failing to maintain complete records of client trust account funds and keep them for
a period of five years after termination of the representation. 3.4(c): Knowingly disobeying court orders. 8.1(b): Knowingly failing to respond to a lawful demand for ...

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